F. Lee Bailey Defines “Alone”

Many years ago when one of my favorite bookstores, Brentano’s, was still in business, I bought a book entitled “The Defense Never Rests”, by F. Lee Bailey, who was, and still may be, active as a criminal defense lawyer. In this book Bailey described some of the famous cases he had been involved in, including the Sam Shepard murder trial, the Boston Strangler, and others. This book, published in 1971, long predated his involvement in the O.J. Simpson case in the 1990s.

Despite the interest these cases held,  and they were very interesting, it was the Foreword which captured my attention.  In it, Bailey described his deep concern over a flashing red warning light flashing “Fire” which appeared suddenly on the cockpit dashboard while he was flying a Sabrejet over the North  Carolina coast on a Marine Corps training mission out of Cherry Point, North Carolina, putting in the necessary time for flight pay.  His concern was not merely an abstract thought but was based on specific recent trouble with the planes catching fire while taking off and costing pilots their lives. He recalled what what pilots always thought, that it always happened to the other guy, never to me.

He was 23 years old at the time, 1955, and was chief legal officer for his unit based at Cherry Point.  He had two options: bail out or cut the engine and try for a dead- stick landing.  If he bailed out the thought of his chute not opening crossed his mind.  He recalled the terminal velocity of a free-falling human being as 125 mph.  He could point the plane out to sea and hope that it didn’t come back over land but there was always the chance it would.  He described the Sabrejet as a flying gas tank powered by a blowtorch.

Bailey made his decision.  He grabbed the microphone and yelled “MAYDAY” as loud as he could.   He hauled back on the stick, turned toward the base and yanked the throttle back to idle cut-off almost in the same instant. He planned on a flame-out approach.  He would have bailed out, but instead when he cut off the power off the warning light went out.

He had enough altitude and the Cherry Point landing strip was the longest in the world.  He landed without difficulty.

Reminiscing later, he recalled being able to still feel the excitement of the moment of decision a mile above the earth.  If he ran a school for criminal lawyers, he thought, he would teach them all to fly.  He would send them up when the weather was rough, when the planes were in tough shape, when the birds were walking.  The ones who survived, he continued, would understand the meaning of “alone.”  Bailey, as a pilot for 17 years, understood that.

He was also a criminal lawyer, he concluded.

My new book, “The Pearl Harbor Congressional Cover-Up.  A True Account of How a Partisan Congress Misled the American People on the Pearl Harbor Attack, December 7, 1941.  Featuring Historic Lessons on  the Failure of Leadership to Foresee the Attack and to Avert War With Japan,” is now available on Amazon.  It is not just another book about Pearl Harbor.  It is based on a 1946 congressional report and has political implications relevant today.

Arnold G. Regardie

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